Today we’re stopping by Caitlin Pyle, founder of Transcript ProofreadAnywhere, to introduce us to the unique work at home of court transcript proofreading. Caitlin has been doing home proofreading for court reporters since 2012. Today she shares how she got started and you can too.
What was your motivation for working from home?
I crave autonomy when working and how I go about my day. I’ve known since I was in high school that I didn’t want to work for someone else. When I worked in an office after college, I absolutely hated that I had to be there at 8:00am and couldn’t leave before 5pm for some reason without making arrangements. two weeks ahead of time. It felt like a prison to me! We would actually be in trouble if we clocked in at 8:03, or clocked out at 4:59. When I want to work, when I want to sleep/when I do my chores – I want to be able to decide for myself whether before 8:00 am or after 5 pm, or squeeze it in during my lunch. And we only get 10 paid days off a year. If we needed more than that, it was a problem. To be honest, I don’t know how I did it for so long! I am also an avid traveler. Being able to work from anywhere allows me to pick up and go whenever I want. My husband and I are going to Ecuador for a 12-month stay this summer — because we can! We are both excited and I am very grateful that I will be able to earn while abroad.
Tell us a little about your home business and how it came about.
I have been working from home as a professional transcript proofreader for court reporters since 2012. I do all my work on an iPad — although I started out using a printer, paper and a pen! I used to work at a court reporting agency. I started answering phones, moved into transcript production, then ended up in marketing. Apart from proofreading/content writing, I hatred Marketing… Management thought that marketing was the same thing as sales (it’s not!), so they sent me to make a lot of sales calls and I was miserable! The office knew I had an eagle eye, and any ad or content distributed would have to go through me so I could check it for errors. In a business that prides itself on accuracy, typos make you look bad! I took on a few court reporters as clients while I was there, and when I left (which is not a happy story… it’s a juicy story!), I continued to read for them. Then, one of them told me I could no longer read for him because his agency forced him to use one of “their” quality assurance proofreaders. I asked the client for the contact information of the person who told him this. He gave it to me, and I sent a request to “audition” as a quality assurance proofreader for his agency. I didn’t even audition! They were in dire need of a proofreader, and started sending me work the very next week. I started getting a few new clients here and there, then a few more – people were passing my name around! I continued to accept work and, even when it was stressful, plowed through it. Over time my speed and stamina increased and before I knew it, I was proofreading 20-25 hours a week and earning twice what I was making as a marketing manager at my old office. I couldn’t believe it. I always say that my becoming a transcript proofreader was a complete accident, because it was. I still think back and get chills. Even though I left that court reporting office on really bad terms, I wouldn’t be where I am today without that miserable job — so I really have a strange gratitude towards my former boss.
What was your first step to getting started?
Well, funny story — my former boss (who hates me now) actually gave me my first transcript to proofread! He wanted to see if I was okay. i was very well. I was still working as a receptionist. After I read that first transcript, I can still remember having the feeling that I was going to be doing more than answering phones for the rest of my career!
Are there any special tools or skills required?
You must have patience and a very strong eye for detail. Your eyes don’t go over the flaws easily. Transcript proofreading is also slightly different from traditional proofreading, so it’s important to be willing to learn the ropes and don’t think that just because you can spot errors that transcript proofreading will be a piece of cake. it is so Much more than just spelling and grammar. In fact, most of the time, you can’t fix bad grammar in a transcript. We cannot change the record if a witness speaks incorrectly. The court reporter recorded everything verbatim.
For special tools, you only need a computer and access to the Internet/e-mail. You can print the transcripts and mark them by hand or use a computer to do this. My personal favorite is an iPad mini! I paid $10 for an app that streamlined my process into what I think is the most efficient way to proofread in existence. I don’t recommend the printer/paper method, especially if you really want to make a living. Some people think an iPad is too expensive, but it’s a one-time cost! Ink, paper, printers and scanners will cost a lot more over time than an iPad, plus scanning every page you send back to your client is an incredibly slow and tedious task.
To this day, it still blows my mind how few people know such a career exists. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me, though, ’cause I had no idea either! But there was never a time when I met someone new who, when they asked me what I did for a living, had any idea that it was possible to make a decent income using just e-mail and an iPad.
If there was one thing you could go back and do, what would it be?
I used to start sharing my knowledge very early. I proofread for three years before creating a user-friendly, practical way to share my method with others.
Where do you advise others to start in your industry to help?
Because I asked myself “How do I start?” So often by many people, in 2014 I decided it was time to give them a better answer and create a solid way to teach people my craft (finally!). I founded my website, ProofreadAnywhere.com, and after months of planning, drafting, filming, editing, writing, rewriting, proofreading, and editing, I launched a self-paced online course in early 2015. Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice. It’s a step-by-step, turn-by-turn roadmap for those looking to break into the industry. There’s nothing like it — before now, anyone who wanted to proofread transcripts, well, had to wing it! In the course, we start students off with the very basics, such as what a transcript is and how a court reporter makes a transcript. After we lay a foundation, we move on to the hard stuff like the many types of errors you’re looking for, and then the fun, hands-on stuff like practice transcripts and how to get clients.
What is an online business tool that you happily pay for month after month?
I use FreshBooks Cloud Accounting. I pay for it annually, and at over $200 a year, it’s not cheap, but it’s been an essential tool for my business! Whenever I receive a transcript, I immediately open FreshBooks on my iPad and input the new work into my client’s invoice. That way it’s there and it will be billed. I proofread for 20-30 court reporters per month, so keeping track of everything can get crazy!! Freshbook helps me stay organized — and creating invoices is almost ridiculously easy! The customer service team is also very responsive and helpful.
To learn more about Caitlin’s story and her proofreading from home program, visit Proofread Anywhere.